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Fishermen protesting outside DFO offices. (Photo: Video/Global News at 6)s

Tension grows in Nova Scotia Indigenous fishery

Click on the flag for more information about Canada CANADA
Friday, October 13, 2017, 00:20 (GMT + 9)

A second lobster boat appeared after having burned in Nova Scotia amid tensions the stemmed over Indigenous fishery in that Canadian province.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) informed that both fires appear to have been deliberately set, though the Nova Scotia minister of Justice, Mark Furey, claimed it is too early to say if they were racially motivated, thestar.com reported.

One of these boats belonged to a Nova Scotia fisherman who believed it was targeted because he is Indigenous.

However, the owner of the other boat, Alex McDonald, said he gets along well with non-Indigenous lobster fishermen in the area and doesn’t believe any of them are to blame.

McDonald said he thinks someone is trying to create trouble — noting that a dry-docked, non-Indigenous fisherman’s boat was burned in Weymouth North last week.

Meanwhile, RCMP are asking the public to come forward with any information that could assist in their investigations.

There have been tensions in the area recently over the Indigenous ceremonial and food fisheries, and last month two non-Indigenous men were charged with threatening Indigenous fishermen online.

“We don’t know if they are connected or not,” Premier Stephen McNeil said when asked about whether the fires were related to the brewing problems in the fishery.

McNeil said the province has capacity for both the native and commercial fisheries, “but it means that everyone has to have an open conversation.” And on being asked if he was concerned the tensions could boil over into violence, he replied he had not seen that.

Non-Indigenous fishermen have staged several protests outside fisheries offices in Digby, Tusket and Meteghan in recent weeks over claims that Indigenous fishermen are taking unfair advantage of their right to continue fishing outside of the regular commercial season, which ended May 31.

In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada issued the landmark Sparrow decision that found Indigenous Peoples have the right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes. The court also found that right takes priority over other uses for the resource, but conservation must be considered.

However, federal regulations state that commercial sales from these fisheries are prohibited.

Morley Knight, assistant deputy minister with the Department of Fisheries, told the CBC recently that there were “clear indications” of abuse in the Indigenous food, social and ceremonial fishery in St. Mary’s Bay and that officials were stepping up patrols of the area.

Michael Sack, chief of the 2,500-member Sipekne’katik First Nation, has said some Mi’kmaq fishermen could be selling lobster on the side, but they are only exercising their right to earn a moderate living from the fishery as spelled out by the Supreme Court of Canada in its Marshall decision.

The lobster business remains the most lucrative fishery in Canada, generating more than CAD 2 billion in export sales in 2015 and again in 2016. 

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